Archers force playoff for second spot with rousing win against Bulldogs

The last time we saw Arnold Van Opstal on the floor of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, he had more fouls than points, he didn’t attempt a single shot, and his hair was in disarray. But today, as a starter, his teammates pounded the ball to him, and he responded. He scored La Salle’s first basket, had seven at the half, and had 14 and six at the end of the game. And yes, the hair was perfectly fine today.

The last time we saw Almond Vosotros was on the giant screen above the court. He drove towards the basket, only to have the ball stolen from him by UE’s Dan Alberto. The sequence was replayed on the screen, over and over, like a recurring nightmare. But today, he scored La Salle’s first triple, had eight at the half, and finished the game with 15 points, including a 3-for-4 (75%) showing from three-point territory.

The giant screen again showed him today, but this time, it was a little different. Today he was the recipient of a pass from Jason Perkins, and he knocked down a three-pointer from the right wing. Today he was shown on the screen driving to the basket and pulling up for an easy jumper.

And Jeron Teng, who had been carrying La Salle in their past few games? He still had nine points, but he was mostly busy finding his teammates for open shots and easy buckets.

After a stinging loss against the UE Red Warriors, the Green Archers rebounded and ended their season with an auspicious 68-56 victory over the NU Bulldogs in their final elimination round game earlier tonight at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. The win allows the Archers to finish the elims with a 10-4 win-loss card, which forces a tie and a playoff for second place against FEU, who earlier lost to Ateneo in overtime.

After beginning the fourth quarter up by just five points, 49-44, La Salle went to Norbert Torres inside early in the payoff period, and the Bear responded with six quick points to put the Archers up by 11. Bulldog Gelo Alolino and Alfred Aroga responded with a basket and a free throw, respectively, but  the Archers went on a searing run to end the match, starting with a triple by Kib Montalbo, a hook shot by Van Opstal, and a jumper by Vosotros.

Perkins, who himself had a bad showing against the Red Warriors, scored again for La Salle as their lead swelled to 64-48. Aroga had another split on the line for NU, but Julian Sargent scored and was fouled and Montalbo nailed another one from mid-range for the Archers to establish the game’s biggest lead, 68-49, with only 57 seconds left, putting the game out of reach.

After struggling during the first two quarter, Perkins came alive early in the third, as he scored four of La Salle’s first six points. Troy Rosario and Alolino traded baskets with the Archers, but Perkins, Vosotros, and Sargent once again scored for the Archers as they increased their lead to 46-37, with  a little over two minutes remaining in the period. But Alolino canned two charities and scored two baskets again for the NU as they pulled to within 49-43 after thirty minutes of play.

The Bulldogs actually got off to a quick start, capitalizing on three early turnovers by La Salle. They led by as much as six, 15-9, after a basket by Aroga with a little than three minutes left in the first. La Salle, however, ended the quarter with an 11-2 spurt to take a 20-17 lead after the game’s first ten minutes, with Vosotros and Van Opstal combining for 14 of their 20.

But after shooting 56% in the first canto, La Salle struggled to find the basket early in the second, as NU unleashed a 12-2 blitz of their own, holding the Archers scoreless for more than five minutes to restore a 29-24 advantage. Van Opstal, however, built on a strong showing in the first and scored against over Aroga, before having a split on the charity stripe later on. Teng, who had hitherto taken only two shots, made two charities and then rifled in a three-pointer before a basket by Khobuntin capped the period as La Salle forged a 31-all tie at the turn.

Aside from Van Opstal, Vosotros and Teng, Norbert Torres finished with 13 points and four boards in only 17 minutes of play, while Perkins added eight and seven boards. For the Bulldogs, it was Alolino who finished with a game-high 18 points and two boards, while Rosario chipped in with 14 markers and five boards, but was the only other NU player in double-figures.

The Archers, the league’s best rebounding team, narrowly lost the battle of the boards, 35-36, but overall made more than half their shots for a 50.9% shooting clip as compared to only 36.8% for NU. La Salle also had more assists, 13-7, more inside points, perimeter points, and got a huge 17 from their bench.

The Semis Rematch: A year later and the Archers again find themselves locking horns with the FEU Tamaraws in a virtual best-of-three Final Four. The first game, which will be a playoff for the second twice-to-beat advantage, will be played next Sunday, September 21, 3pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Notes: Before the game, it was announced that Thomas Torres will be playing for the Archers. Torres was in uniform for the first time since suffering a toe fracture during their July 19 game against Ateneo.

The Scores:

DLSU- 68- Vosotros-15, Van Opstal-14, Torres-13, Teng-9, Perkins-8, Montalbo-5, Sargent-4, Rivero-0, Bolick-0, Mustre-0, Tratter-0

NU- 56- Alolino-18, Rosario-14, Javelona-8, Aroga-8, Khobuntin-4, Betayene-4, Diputado-0, Celda-0, Neypes-0, Perez-0

Quarterscores: 20-17, 31-31, 49-43, 68-56